Swami Dayananda – A True Soldier of Light
It is a fact that when there are strong pre-possessions, no amount of evidence can produce any effect. Dayananda’s personality is so great that it stands in no need of any defense from any ordinary persons like us. However, when it is besmeared with cobwebs of hatred and malevolence, some one has to act to present things in their true and right perspective. During his life time, he was grossly misunderstood and sinister forces of that time tried to ignore him. He was harassed in numerous ways. A ceaseless battle was waged against him with savage malice and furious hatred. Unscrupulous campaigns of lie, blasphemy and slander were carried on against him by using vulgar and even obscene polemics. Even after passing away of this revolutionary soul (he was poisoned in Jodhpur and he passed away in 1883 at Ajmer) his thoughts, teachings and personality are still being obscured and distorted.
We all are free to make any opinion about any person. Nevertheless, if it is not based on facts, and not actuated by a sense of responsibility, justice and sanctified intention, it does not serve any positive purpose. If a person is not a sincere seeker after truth, if he has never wandered in the mazes of varied religious literature, if he has never felt the difficulties that lie in the way of spiritual practices and Vedic study, if he has never realized the importance of the contributions made by Dayananda, there are all chances that he may fail in proper assessment and appraisal of Dayananda. Therefore, it becomes essential to re-state some facts for his right assessment. We should know that the truths discovered by him from the eternal Divine revelation of the Vedas only could be the bonds which can unite us as a great people, as a great nation and yield us all what is desirable in spiritual, religious and social matters. Had truth been judged merely by number and its conformity with the traditional and conventional customs and faiths, no great reformation would have ever succeeded. We have yet to acknowledge what we owe to the state of Gujarat for it was that territory of land which gave birth to this great visionary, who was destined to become the Rishi of the modern times.
Dayananda should be weighed not by the votes of those who are the devoted followers of the mythological sects and sub-sects or any organized religious groups, but by the evidences which he could bring forward to substantiate the fundamentals of his Vedic philosophy and social concepts. He was a great seer who saw the truth face to face. The Vedic truths were concealed under the cover of oblivion by the long ages of ignorance and superstition. It was his profound learning and penetrating intellect that pierced through the obscure veil and saw the gem of truth blazing in the majesty of its luster and glory. He found out the key to the right interpretation of the Vedas. This is the greatest invention of the times and if we realize this fact, it will produce meaningful results not only in the life of Hinduism but in the history of the world. Then only the entire mankind will witness the great spiritual renaissance through Vedas and India.
In fact, the study of the Vedas had fallen into disuse and misuse owing to the sectarian gurus and teachers of the so called Vedant who confined themselves within their narrow sects and Prasthantrayi as interpreted by Shankaracharya. They never cared to understand the real value of Veda Samhitas. It was Dayananda who made it clear that Upanishads and Brahma Sutra etc. are valuable books for the true understanding of the Vedas, but they are not revealed knowledge. The revealed knowledge is only four Veda Samhitas. However, our modern Vedant teachers are still not ready to correct their mistake in this regard. They are still practically neglecting the original Vedas. They yet do not show any genuine interest in propagating the Veda Samhitas. They believe these Samhitas are the books of mere rituals. We may call it reverential neglect of the Vedas. Dayananda says these Veda Mantra Samhitas are the fountainhead of all true knowledge including philosophy, metaphysics, religion, ethics and everything else useful for the fulfillment of the human life. His ‘Rigvedadi Bhashya Bhumika’ and Interpretations (Bhashyas) of Rigveda and Yajurveda provide a powerful testimony to his claim. For the authors of Upanishads and other true Vedic Shastras, the original four Veda Samhitas were the basic text books. Even Rama, Krishna and Veda Vyasa also studied these Vedas. No book can equal the Vedas as far as the presentation of all true positive sciences in the seed form is concerned. Dayananda has established the supremacy of Vedas in such a clear and convincing term that any thoughtful and sensible member of the Arya Samaj would not at all hesitate to express that even Satyarth Prakash could not equal a single hymn of the Vedas. The Vedas are knowledge of God; Satyarth Prakash is a creation of Dayananda’s knowledge, a human creation. The same is true for the Upanishads written by various Rishis. We have to attach the highest importance to Divine knowledge, if we are genuine seekers after truth. Therefore the attitude of Vedant teachers towards Veda Samhitas is not justifiable. Other sectarian scholars also have no interest in the original Vedas. They are happy with their sectarian book; to them it is more than the Vedas.
Dayananda believed that his conception of God and all other objects in the universe was founded on the teachings of Vedas and other true ancillary Vedic scriptures, and is in conformity with the beliefs of all the sages, from Brahma down to Jaimini. As far as authenticity of the religious and philosophical books is concerned Dayananda has made his stand very clear. He writes in his Satyarth Prakash: “I hold that the four Vedas – the repository of Knowledge and Religious Truths – are the Word of God. They comprise what is known as the Samhita Mantra portion only. They are absolutely free from error, purely of Divine origin and are an authority unto themselves. In other words, they do not stand in need of any other book to uphold their authority. Just as the sun (or a lamp) by its light, reveals its own nature as well as that of other objects of the universe, such as the earth – even so are the Vedas. The commentaries on the four Vedas, viz., the Brahmanas, the six Angas, the six Upangas, the four Up-Vedas, and the eleven hundred and twenty-seven Shakhas, which are expositions of the Vedic texts by Brahma and other great Rishis – I look upon as works of a dependent character. In other words, they are held to be authoritative in so far as they conform to the teachings of the Vedas. Whatever passages in these works are opposed to the Vedic injunctions I reject them entirely.”
Dayananda has given five tests of truth in his books, and his own books like Satyarth Prakash etc. are also subject to these five tests. These tests are: (i) The nature, attributes and characteristics of God, and the teachings of the Veda (ii) Eight kinds of evidence such as direct cognition (iii) Laws of nature means science (iv) The practice of Aaptas (v) The purity and conviction of one’s own soul. He has advised all of us to sift truth from error with the help of these five tests and to embrace truth and reject error. In 1875 at Mumbai when a group of his followers approached him with a suggestion to found a society (Arya Samaj), he made his position very clear to them. He plainly said that he is just a Sanyasi and a preacher of truth and follower of the Vedas; he is not a free – independent – man. Moreover, he said that he is not an all-knowing (sarvajna) person. He said to them that if any error is found in his thoughts, one should get it examined with the help of pramanas (evidences) and get it rectified accordingly. He said that he wanted unity among the people of different faiths based on the universal teachings of the Vedas.
Dayananda was not against any particular sect or so called religion. He was against all such things which were – in his opinion – against the Vedas, reason or reality. He all through his life stood for truth and blunt truth. He followed Bhartihari’s saying: “The worldly-wise may praise one or censure him; fortune may smile on him or frown on him; death may overtake him immediately or he may live for ages, but a wise man, does not swerve from the path of justice.” He was totally fearless. Fearlessness was in fact the bed-rock of his mental make up. That was the reason that he was able to address hostile gatherings and face showers of stones and brickbats. He was the self appointed crusader against the whole mass of superstitious notions and dogmas. His convictions made him unmindful of the risks involved. In his love of truth he spared neither prince nor priest. He suffered for his integrity and love of reality. He appeared on the scene at a crucial period when the country was under the firm and sinister grip of age old ignorance and caged in religious and feudal slavery. He gave a revolutionary call to smash and uproot the old rotten society to be replaced by a new dynamic one. He firmly believed that, “India has had to suffer great harm and loss because of the spread of various sects. Therefore, all good and well-meaning persons should work hard and uproot these sects. If these are not uprooted, the country will never come to any good.” He was born with a rebellious and analytical mind with a rare passion for truth and freedom. His was not a blind refutation of this or that sect or religion. He did not blindly negate any sect or religion as such. Whatever was useful in them for the common good, he whole heartedly accepted, but he said: “Barring very few things, they contain all untruths. In the company of untruths, truth cannot remain pure.” To him the science or reason was the final evidence. Hence he rejected outright all that went against it. He denounced evils and vulgarities spread by vested interests in the name of religion and theology with divine passion and righteous indignation. The whole front and reserve of orthodoxy came forward to silence him. But his profound scholarship, incisive logic, powerful persuasion and opportune hammering brought them to their knees. One can remember his great historical debate with 300 scholars of Kashi in 1869 on idol worship. It is reported that about fifty thousand people gathered to attend this debate.
Moreover, Dayananda was duty bound to his guru Swami Virjananda, a giant master of Vedic grammar, for the spread of Vedic light and elimination of the darkness of varied anti Vedic sects prevalent in the country. Dayananda traveled far and wide for almost three decades in India and everywhere he saw with his own eyes all sorts of malpractices, exploiting tricks and frauds. He studied thousands of Sanskrit books and enriched his stock of knowledge. In a small book named “Bhrantinivaran” he has declared that after due study and examination, he was of the opinion that starting from Rig Veda up to Purva Mimansa of Jaimini almost three thousand books were found authentic and worthy of acceptance to him. One can imagine his vast learning. Sri K. M. Munshi has rightly said in ‘The Creative Art of Life’ that “Dayananda was learned beyond the measure of man.” When Dayananda came on the platform, almost all religious sects, groups and organizations of the world stood against him. Arya Samaj was started in 1875 and Dayananda died in 1883. In these 7-8 years a new borne Samaj with its scant resources could hardly assist him much. He was alone and single handed. Only God was his ally. If he had taken a soft stand and used mild or sugar coated language in his mission, no one would have taken his notice in those days of darkness. Simple, liberal or gullible countrymen might have noticed him without much attention and it might have recorded that one Swami Dayananda was there who believed in Vedas and asked to meditate on formless God, etc. That is all. But Dayananda did not aim to make such a trivial contribution. He wanted to change the entire scenario. He wanted to build human unity based on the platform of truth. After lot of thinking he finally chalked out his action plan for the reformation and applied his own style of propagation under the conditions and compulsions of that time. He was full of vigor, dynamism and vitality and he firmly believed that national regeneration and reformation could not be attained by a spirit of passivity, inertia and resignation or soft policy. His courage of conviction and honesty of purpose made him forceful and dominating. Otherwise he was not at all militant or aggressive soul; he was a yogi, a man of spirituality. We should also examine about the various forces at work against him at that time including attitudes of organized religions and personality-centered sects in the country. To counteract all such rival factors Dayananda preferred to work as a crusader. Moreover, he was not a man who can barter his convictions for any convenience. He was not only a preacher of truth; he was a successful crusader against capitalism in spirituality. Spreading enlightenment by teaching and preaching the truths enshrined in the ancient Vedic wisdom was his accepted mission. He believed his intention could be best fulfilled in the shortest possible time by adopting strong, direct and severe refutation of all anti Vedic sects and practices. He destroyed debris only to create unity on a surer foundation of eternal truth. The Vedas also teach that there should be no compromise with the powers of evil and vices. The Vedas are uncompromising in their fight with evils. This was the secret of his grand success. Romain Rolland, a famous French scholar has rightly admitted the fact that Dayananda was so successful that within five years the northern India was completely changed.
In fact, Dayananda wanted us study and propagate the original Vedas, Aarsha literature and Sanskrit. He wanted us regularly practice Vedic Yoga as elucidated by Patanjali and other Vedic Rishis for the realization of God. He wanted us pray Almighty with the help of Gayatri mantra and other Vedic verses. He wanted us know that God is One for the entire creation and common for all the souls. He wanted us understand that Aum is God’s prime name to be chanted by heart with full sense of its meaning and unconditional surrender to Him. He wanted us realize that no human being however great he may be, could ever be God; Great persons of history like Rama, Krishna etc. are not to be worshipped as God, instead we should strive to get inspiration and useful lessons from the life and true history of such great sons of humanity. He wanted us understand that idols made of stones and metals are not to be worshipped; only God is to be worshipped; only God is to be contemplated. Idols are Idols, they are not God; any thing visible cannot be God. He wanted us have a correct understanding of the philosophy of Vedas, the philosophy of three basic fundamental and eternal entities: God, Soul and Matter or Prakriti, as described in the six Darshan Shastras. He wanted us understand that every thing written in Sanskrit is not true, entitled to be called ‘Shastra’ nor any thing against natural laws happens. He wanted us revitalize ancient systems of Gurukul education, Yajna, Veda swadhyay, Panch Maha Yagnas and Sanskars. He wanted us to get united for the defense of eternal and universal Vedic truths and high moral values. He wanted us work for the restoration of our old national pride. For such motives he fought against all sorts of evils. Then how to believe that he has misguided us? In fact he made us aware of the realities. His mission produced many national heroes like Swami Shraddhananda, Lala Lajpat Rai, Pandit Shyamji Krishna Varma, Bhai Paramananda, Ram Prasad Bismil, Sardar Ajit Singh, Mahatma Hansaraj, Rambhaj Datt Chaudhary, Pandit Gurudatta Vidyarthi, Pandit Lekhram etc.
Likewise to say that Dayananda has hijacked the Vedas is not fair at all. His pioneering contribution in the field of Vedic study has been well recorded in the history. To illustrate that the worship of one true omnipresent formless God has been inculcated in the Vedas is not hijacking of the Vedas. To assert based on the scriptural evidences that the religion of the Vedas is pure and simple monotheism is not hijacking of the Vedas. To show that in the Vedas there is no mention of Idol worship, incarnation, Rama and Krishna, and Adwaitvad (monism) etc. is not hijacking of the Vedas. To open up a new vista about the nature of the Vedic culture and civilization is not hijacking of the Vedas. To liberate this Divine revelation from the ballast of Pauranic stories, and interpret it in the most scientific way based on the philological and etymological principles laid down by Maharshi Yaska in his Nirukta and Nighantu is not hijacking of the Vedas. To make clarion call to entire mankind to directly go to the original source, to the knowledge through which God manifests Himself in His creation is not hijacking of the Vedas. To propose that in the Vedas there are three basic fundamental entities viz. God, Soul and Prakriti (material cause of universe); and our six Darshan Shastras are complementary to one another each presenting a particular aspect of reality admitting the supremacy of the Vedas is not hijacking of the Vedas. To establish with the most convincing proof that the teachings of the Vedas are sublime, universal and most natural, and no human being comes into picture between man and his God, and truth and only truth is invoked in the Vedas is not hijacking of the Vedas. To interpret these most ancient books in such a way that the hymns which appeared as childish, silly and monstrous stories to many turn out to contain truths of profound significance is not hijacking of the Vedas. To prove that in the Vedas there is no account of human history and there is no mention of any specific name of country, king, river etc. is not hijacking of the Vedas. To show that the Vedas are open to entire mankind without any distinction of caste, creed, sex and nationality etc. is not hijacking of the Vedas. To prove and show that Mahidhar, Sayana, Uvatta, Maxmuller, Griffith etc. have made fundamental mistakes in understanding the Vedas, or many European scholars have deliberately misinterpreted the Vedas is not hijacking of the Vedas. To state that in the Vedas there are four varnas (social classes) based on the merits and accomplishments of an individual and not on birth is not hijacking of the Vedas.
It is, therefore, imperative that before Dayananda is condemned blindly without any adequate foresight, discernment and historical information, due care is to be taken to consider these basic facts about him. Dayananda’s holy intention is to be appreciated first and then his actions and thoughts are to be evaluated. Sri Aurobindo and Dr. S. Radhakrishnan have expressed their opinion on Dayananda’s personality and his unique contribution as under, which would definitely provide us new insight while judging Dayananda:
“Very different was the manner of working of Dayananda. Here was one who did not infuse himself informally into the indeterminate soul of things, but stamped his figure indelibly as in bronze on men and things. Here was one whose formal works are the very children of his spiritual body, children fair and robust and full of vitality, the image of their creator. Here was one who knew definitely and clearly the work he was sent to do, chose his materials, determined his conditions with a sovereign clairvoyance of the spirit and executed his conception with the puissant mastery of the born worker. As I regard the figure of this formidable artisan in God’s workshop, images crowd on me which are all of battle and work and conquest and triumphant labour. Here, I say to myself, was a very soldier of Light, a warrior in God’s world, a sculptor of men and institutions, a bold and rugged victor of the difficulties which matter presents to spirit. And the whole sums itself up to me in a powerful impression of spiritual practicality. The combination of these two words, usually so divorced from each other in our conceptions, seems to me the very definition of Dayananda.
Even if we leave out of account the actual nature of the work he did, the mere fact that he did it in this spirit and to this effect would give him a unique place among our great founders. He brings back an old Aryan element into the national character. This element gives us the second of the differentiae I observe and it is the secret of the first. We others live in a stream of influences; we allow them to pour through us and mould us; there is something shaped and out of it a modicum of work results, the rest is spilt out again in a stream of influence. We are indeterminate in our lines, we accommodate ourselves to circumstance and environment. Even when we would fain be militant and intransigent, we are really fluid and opportunist. Dayananda seized on all that entered into him, held it in himself, masterfully shaped it there into the form that he saw to be right and threw it out again into the forms that he saw to be right. That which strikes us in him as militant and aggressive, was a part of his strength of self-definition.” – Sri Aurobindo (Source: Bankim-Tilak-Dayananda)
“Among the makers of modern India, the chief place will be assigned to him (Dayananda). At a time when there was spiritual confusion in our country, when many of our social practices were in the melting pot, when we were overcome by superstition and obscurantism, this great soul came forward with staunch devotion to truth and a passion for social equality and enthusiasm, and worked for the emancipation of our country, religious, political, social and cultural…Swami Dayananda Saraswati was one who was guided by the supremacy of reason and he made out that the Vedic scriptures never asked us to take anything on trust but to examine everything, and then come to any kind of conclusion. … So he (Dayananda) was a social reformer who had a crusading zeal, a powerful intellect and a fire in his heart when he looked at the social injustices. He tried to sweep them away with a drastic hand. This is also what the country requires today…In that way he emphasized the rule of reason and pointed out that there is one Supreme God.
He also gave freedom of conscience.” – Dr. S. Radhakrishnan
(Source: President Radhakrishnan’s Speeches and Writings, May 1962-May 1964, Pg. 126-128, Speech at Bodh Utsava of Swami Dayananda Saraswati, N.Delhi, 24.2.1963)